Monday, January 23, 2006

11:54 p.m. I just squeaked by. I had to turn in this huge assignment by 11:59pm today. I've been working on it for the last 5 or 6 days. I've seen too much of my computer, too much of this kitchen table. The assignment was a metadata schema evaluation. Somewhat interesting, but very involved. There were 17 parts!! And there was a huge amount of overlap. So much so that I began to worry if I was really getting it. Metadata is a weird thing.

11:56. Let's see if I can squeak by and get to bed before tomorrow! Then it's on to the next big assignment, a literature review...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I’ve got to post before more fun and exciting class sessions!

For the last week I listened to six online lectures and read countless articles, but I didn’t quite understand my organization class until we had our first actual class yesterday.

One the main things we’re studying is Document Representation. A document representation is a surrogate, a stand-in, for the actual thing. It’s basically a description. There are standards in various places on what this includes, but can include author, title, publisher, date published, brief summary, subject headings, etc. It sounds sort of basic, but it’s really not. (Librarians have to organize the heck out of everything and make it all difficult. =)

But here is the importance of document representations – imagine using a library that doesn’t use document representations. All the books are on the shelves and you have to look through all of them till you find what you want. There is no searchable catalog (those are document representations you’re searching). There is no list of any sort. Luckily you at least have book titles and blurbs on the back covers (all bits of metadata which describe the contents of the book).

It’s the same with articles. If you’re searching for an article in a database, the list of results is made of document representations. And it’s the same with internet search engines. Imagine if Google didn’t return that list of results (which are document representations). Instead you’d go straight to the first website. If that’s not it you click Next to view the next site, and so forth. You don’t get to see all the options at a glance.

Any time you’re looking at a brief description of a book, article, movie, website, audio, etc – and not the item itself – you’re looking at a document representation. These things were created to help you, the public, find what you’re looking for.

And who creates these things? Sometimes they’re automatic (as with internet search engines), but mostly they’re created by people; quite often, librarians. =)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

My other class this quarter hasn't met yet. The professor is in Hawaii so the class is listening to online lectures and reading a stack of articles in preparation for the class to start next week. I made it through the three online lectures for this week. So far it's a lot of overview. The professor went on and on about this being a really in-depth, difficult class, hard stuff, confusing, etc, etc. I don't doubt her, but it's on the subject of organization, so I'm pretty excited about it.

In a nutshell, this class is about the process of organizing information. First you decide what you are organizing; then you choose or create techniques, tools, and standards; then you create resource representatives; then you figure out organizing, retrieving, and displaying the resource representations; and lastly you provide access to resources. Sounds a bit dry I suppose, but I'm sure it will be fun.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

First Day

Welcome to the first day of Winter quarter! I'm taking two classes this quarter: Information in Social Context and Organization of Information and Resources. I haven't had the organization class yet, so not much to say there.

The first class will be quite interesting though. This covers intellectual freedom, intellectual property, privacy, confidentiality, information liability, censorship, book banning, free speech, surveillance & monitoring, fair use, copyright; little things like that. Yeah, it's going to be quite a class.

We started today by talking about the American Library Association's Code of Ethics. There are a lot of packed sentences in this code, for instance:
We significantly influence or control the selection, organization, preservation, and dissemination of information.

We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.

We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.
One thing we talked about: kids in libraries. Some parents look at every book with their kids and know what they're reading. Other parents drop their kids off and have no idea what they're looking at. Sometimes parents get upset about what their kids can find in a library. But are librarians supposed to be parents? Uh, no.

So we can't stop kids (or anyone) from looking at items in the library. But what do we stock in the library? Libraries I think pride themselves on being open to everything. You may not agree with it, but people will need the information and it's your job to provide it. So libraries have books on homosexuality, religion, how to make bombs, etc, etc. There will always be someone who has a problem with some topic in the library.

What about a library that decides not to stock those things they don't agree with? Hmm. I think that would be your own personal library, or perhaps a private corporate library. I think as long as libraries are supported by the public, they will represent the many varied interests of the public.

So as far as a public library goes, librarians aren't going to keep out items that may be deemed offensive by some. And they aren't going to protect anyone from seeing those items or stop people from checking things out. Obviously librarians aren't totally neutral on every subject, but it seems they try to be.